An elephant ear is a perfect choice if you want to give your home a jungle feel. Find out how to take care of this large growing plant here.
Origin of the elephant ear
The elephant ear, with the botanical name also Alocasia macrorrhiza, belongs to the family of aroids (Araceae) and the genus of the arrow leaves (Alocasia).
Elephant ear is also known as giant-leaved arrowleaf or giant taro.
Originally, Alocasia macrorrhiza comes from the tropical areas of Asia.
Appearance and characteristics of Alocasia macrorrhiza
In its natural habitat, the elephant’s ear reaches up to eight feet in height.
However, when grown indoors in containers, the alocasia “only” grows to a height of about 70 to 80 inches.
From the rhizomes of the plant, grow long stems, up to one and a half meters long. At their ends, their leaves stick out like fans.
Due to its spreading and upright growth, the perennial requires a lot of space in the home.
Giant-leaved arrowleaf is long-lived and adaptable. It also stays fresh and green all year round.
The alocasia leaves are arrow-shaped or heart-shaped, oval, and wavy to varying degrees. They can reach up to one meter in diameter.
The leaf veins of the giant taro are visible on the leaf blade.
The flowers of Alocasia macrorrhiza are elongated bulb-shaped, and white. They are each surrounded by a bract.
Their appearance is rather unlikely in indoor cultivation.
In nature, nocturnal insects pollinate the inflorescences of elephant ears. As a result, bright red berries are formed and placed next to each other on the cob.
But why you should not eat the fruits, you will learn here.
The optimal location for the giant-leaved arrowleaf
Giant-leaved arrowleaf can be used as indoor greenery or cultivated in a planter, conservatory, or warm house. In summer, it can also be moved outside to the balcony or patio for a short time, as long as it is back indoors for wintering.
Sheltered and partial shade to shady locations is best for the alocasia.
Throughout the year, you should keep the elephant ear at room temperature. The temperature can drop a little in winter, but it should never fall below 59 °F.
Wintering the Giant Taro
As mentioned, the elephant ear should spend winter in a warm interior. In this case, the temperature should not fall below 59 °F.
During this period, the giant taro can be watered a little less. In addition, fertilizing should be suspended from October to mid-March.
Watering the alocasia
The giant taro requires permanently high soil moisture, so the soil should always be kept moist throughout the year.
In winter, you can water the plant a little less. However, watering can increase again starting in March.
Fertilizing the elephant ear
From late March/early April to September, Alocasia macrorrhiza should be provided with some No products found. in the water every week.
You should not use slow-release fertilizer for elephant ears.
The perfect substrate for the giant-leaved arrowleaf
The elephant ear needs soil rich in nutrients and humus. It should also be loose and well-drained.
A slightly acidic pH of about 5.5 is ideal.
Repotting the giant taro
Since the Giant Taro grows rapidly, it usually needs a new, larger pot each year.
The best time to repot is in the spring when new sprouting is just beginning.
Pruning the elephant taro
Generally, an elephant’s ear does not need to be pruned.
Completely wilted leaves can be pulled off by hand. If the leaves are still green or yellow, you should never remove them because of their essential nutrients.
Propagating the alocasia
To propagate the alocasia, divide its strongly formed rhizomes.
You should ensure that a high temperature and humidity are permanently present for the growth.
And then it is only: have patience!
Diseases, pests, and care mistakes of Alocasia macrorrhiza
The substrate of giant-leaved arrowleaf should always be kept moist. However, too much watering can lead to waterlogging and root rot.
Although plants often die from such a disease, you can try to save them by cutting off infested, rotten, muddy roots.
Afterward, the root ball should be rinsed and the alocasia planted in peat-free soil.
The substrate should be kept dry in the following weeks.
It is also generally recommended to water more moderately than before.
Treatment with fungicides is also only sometimes successful, as bacteria can be responsible for the disease with similar symptoms besides fungi.
Infestation by spider mites
Infestation by spider mites usually occurs when the elephant ear receives too little watering in the summer or stands too dry for longer.
Dry indoor air can also lead to pest infestation, which is why the plant is particularly susceptible to it in winter.
The delicate webs usually recognize spider mites that spin them over the alocasia.
To counteract the pests, it is recommended to use No products found. or No products found. as natural enemies.
The leaves of the elephant ear turn yellow
If yellow leaves appear more frequently or consistently on the alocasia, this may be due to too frequent watering or a poor way for the water to drain.
In this case, you should reduce watering or obtain a more porous substrate and a container with better drainage.
Conversely, yellow leaves marred with brown discoloration in the leaf tips can also signify too dry soil or low humidity.
More frequent watering, spraying with low-lime water, or purchasing a humidifier can be helpful in this case.
If the leaves, including their veins, turn yellow throughout, you can conclude that there is an iron deficiency.
To solve this problem, check the pH of the substrate and, consequently, lower it. In addition, from now on, low-calcium water, ideally rainwater, should be used for watering. Otherwise, sucking insects, such as spider mites, can also be the cause of discoloration.
I’ll answer your questions!
What are the valuable forms of elephant ears?
In its natural habitat, various valuable forms of elephant ear are cultivated.
For example, plant leaves can be used as a vegetable. In another case, the starch-rich rhizomes, which resemble potatoes, are used as a food source.
However, some species of elephant ear contain prussic acid, so it is strongly discouraged to try it yourself in your kitchen!
Is the elephant ear poisonous?
In some species of elephant ear, all parts of the plant are poisonous.
The main toxins can cause inflamed and burning skin with frequent contact.
For example, the bulb contains toxins that can harm children and animals.
The plant’s milky sap is also toxic, which is why the giant taro should be cut and repotted only with gloves.
What are the varieties of Alocasia macrorrhiza?
Elephant ear is still considered rare in our latitudes. Accordingly, there are only a few varieties, such as Alocasia macrorrhiza ‘Variegata’.
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